When we first started having kids we lived on a military base. The houses were fairly close to each other and it was typical for neighborhood gals to invite a group of us over for coffee. As military wives, we knew that building relationships took hard work. We had gained or lost friends countless times during moves or major life adjustments. Most of us realized we had to put in the effort if we wanted to avoid isolation and thrive without our husbands around. As our husbands deployed, we became less like neighbors and more like sister-wives.
When I needed a thermometer at 10:00 p.m, I would run across the court and grab one from my sister-wife. If a friend needed to get to a last minute appointment, she would drop her kid off while my kids and I were still in our pajamas. We were vulnerable, we trusted each other, and our doors were constantly open. Oftentimes in our neighborhood, if your door was shut, it meant you were disciplining your kid or just done for the day and didn’t want to be bothered. After a seven month deployment, these ladies had seen me at my worst and at my best — so there wasn’t much to hide.
Motherhood hasn’t felt the same since we stopped living on a military base. That quote “it takes a village” is definitely true, but it’s been harder to build a village that isn’t directly around you. I do consider the circumstances that I have been having baby after baby and we haven’t always lived in a neighborhood full of kids. However, developing authentic friendships can be challenging. With the rise of social media and the motherhood wars raging, it feels like we share all our vulnerabilities to strangers on the web, but can be very reserved in person. It doesn’t help that calendars are busy for everyone these days. Finally, there are the countless realities of Mom dating (especially with young kids) and you see why it takes hard work to build, yet alone maintain, lasting friendships.
My social life is slim to none these days, but good and healthy friendships are needed for my sanity. I can’t do large play dates at the park anymore and I go to the museum when people aren’t there just so I can keep an eye on my kids without the masses of other kids. I really want to focus on people when having a conversation and it is quite challenging to do that when my head is on a swivel. Nevertheless, I really appreciate face to face time with friends and I still want them in my everyday life. Thus, my house is often where strong relationships happen.
An “open door policy” in Motherhood goes a long way these days. Transparency shows a desire to grow in understanding with someone else and a littler vulnerability speaks volumes. I always enjoy when people welcome me over to their house. It is like sharing another layer of their life with me. Our homes are where we live so much of our life. Since I don’t get out as much as I used to, this season of 6 littles has been a perfect season for welcoming others into my life at home.
I appreciate a tidy, well decorated and organized house, but our house does not need to be staged and neither do our lives. It means friends, both old and new, see that my house isn’t perfectly neat and that most days I am still in my house clothes well into the afternoon. It means they see my kids making a mess during a meal or my toddler falling out on the floor before nap time. It means there are piles of homeschool books all over the house because school sort of happens at anytime. It means my laundry keeps moving as I’m holding a conversation. This is life — and we need to be willing to open our doors and let people see how we live it.
I will likely always hold an “open door policy” for motherhood. I valued how it worked so well in the military and I keep that same mindset for anywhere we live. We can’t live in isolation and the world wide web doesn’t cut it. We have enough barriers to building good friendships that our own front door shouldn’t be one of them. What have we got to lose? We already know we are not perfect, we know motherhood is hard, and we know that we will have good days and bad days. Consider what gains we will have when we sacrifice a little pride. Be willing to let other people into your home, even when it’s messy, even when you’re in your pajamas and even when you’re not at your best.